The year stands, still

Pregnant with its own hopeful future,

Bursting with change and the newness of experience…

The year stands,

A heaving monument to grace.

“The Swelling Year”, 2019

I would not have written those words this year. I almost cannot imagine the world in which I did write them. Though I first wrote them in 2012, they seemed an apt way to describe the year that lay ahead – 2020 – when I released The Swelling Year this time last year. But have the words proven false, now that we know how 2020 has turned out? I don’t believe so. Though I would use different language to describe the longing for, and prospect of, grace to come in the COVID world, God’s goodness and providence are no less real now than they were 12 months ago. Each year stands as a living, breathing monument to grace. We may not yet know the ways that grace will have proven to have been at work in 2020, but we have glimpses. And so I will rejoice, sometimes feebly, sometimes confidently, in the truth of those glimpses.

The Swelling Year (1st Anniversary Edition) is available from Lulu.com now.

Chesed

To think
where darkest nights have taken this soul,
and how thin
the membrane between life
and death, how loud
the Accuser has screamed
to pierce the membrane and throw me through;

yet here
I stand, with no reason
beside You and the sheer
leap into faith that saved,
the soft
belly of love into which I fell;

so here
I stand, with my
eldest in my arms while
he reaches the clothesline,
spins like the chuckling
Father who set this orbit to go,
reaches and carries, and calls out Again!

So why not,
when held
in steadfast love; why not
watch
it spin again and shout
the dead Accuser dumb.

Anno Domini: For the year 2020

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation…

2 Corinthians 6:2
We did not choose you, would not repeat you.
Grief has built upon grief: ash and smoke first,
Then this, a time we can only call
"Unprecedented". And how it goes on,
How quickly "normal" becomes a word
Stripped of all meaning. How quickly "Stay safe"
Replaces "See you later." We saw none
Of this coming. Jetpacks and life on Mars
Were my childhood predictions, not this.
Yet future creeps up unannounced, and we,
Had we heard her coming, would
have moved to
Iceland, or bought shares in hand sanitizer.
Neither would we have chosen growth, or grace
Bulldozing our plans and saving us instead.

As yet untitled

As the changing but constant expectations
of a year that no-one chose keep knocking
and the day of the Lord lingers and tarries from my watch-post,
I long

to take this one quietly, on the bench,
with Saul and the others who couldn't run the race.
No shame in being worn out when
the swift themselves are flagging
and the flags
are all at half-mast or lower.
No prizes for laps of honour, least of all in a mask.
Preserve breath, preserve what
energy you have left, I say.

I say.
Though my words burn and I
would be better served not to speak
but to hear.
A voice like a whisper, like fire,
like a victor:
My yoke is easy. My burden is light.
No shoulders strong enough for burdens today;
even then, there is grace.

Pancake Tuesday

Normally a Saturday ritual, it seemed
we should mark this day with pancakes too,
a breakfast-table recollection
of how feasting and fasting so often cohere.
Even, I thought as I mixed egg and milk
the night before, even mark the way
that air fills the batter like
pockets of life, as these very
ordinary, meager elements of that life -
egg, milk, flour - are mingled
and Spartan fare turns to luxury.


Yet how to explain to those for whom
life's a constant grazing table that
sometimes, though luxury's just
a whisking bowl away from our grasp,
it might be meet to go without,
to join the cousin in the wilderness
with camel's hair and the desert's lean pantry,
to turn our hearts to the sight of Life.


And how to explain to my own heart,
so accustomed to gorging and hairshirts alike,
that all is gift, when the breakfast ends and
the drive to work begins,
when Adam's curse taints feast, and fast
is sometimes only a puff of air?
How to tell the shriven soul
to take the fast and the feast in turn,
to sit at table and taste this grace
as death is at work, yet life is too,
as life is at work in you.